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284                                                                                                                    B. POLEVOI
have paid no particular attention, surprised, amazed the
lad, seemed to him to be significant, important and ex-
tremely interesting.
On the other hand, it could easily be seen that his com-
panion, a senior lieutenant, was indeed a seasoned
soldier. At a first glance you would say that he was
twenty-three or twenty-four; but looking into his tanned,
weather-beaten face with the fine wrinkles round the eyes]
mouth and on his forehead, and into his dark, thoughtful,
tired eyes, you would add another ten years to his age!
The landscape made no impression upon him. He was not
surprised by the rusty wreckage of war machines twisted
by explosions that was lying about here and there, or by
the deserted streets of the gutted village through which
the truck passed, or even by the wreckage of a Soviet
plane—a small heap of twisted aluminium and, at a little
distance, the wrecked engine and the battered tail with a
red star and a number, at the sight of which the younger
soldier had turned red and shuddered.
Having made a comfortable armchair for himself out
of the bundles of newspapers, the officer sat dozing with
his chin resting on the handle of a quaint, heavy ebony
walking-stick ornamented with a gold monogram. From
time to time he opened his eyes with a start, as if driving
away his drowsiness, looked round with a happy smile
and deeply inhaled the hot, fragrant air. Away off the
road, over a heaving sea of reddish weeds, he caught
sight of two specks, which, after scrutinising carefully,
he guessed to be two planes, leisurely gliding across
the sky, one behind the other. His drowsiness left him
in an instant, his eyes lit up, his nostrils quivered, and,
keeping his eyes fixed on the two barely perceptible
specks, he pounded on the roof of the driver's cabin and
"Cover! Turn off the road!"
He stood up, scanned the terrain with an experienced
eye, and showed the driver the clayey hollow of a stream,
the banks of which were overgrown with grey coltsfoot
and golden clumps of celandine.
The younger soldier   smiled   indulgently. The planes
were circling harmlessly far away, looking as though they
not in the least concerned with the lone truck that